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Toronto Public Health investigating after 34 people got sick eating at CNE

WATCH: 34 people ill after eating at the CNE. At least 12 ate the Cronut burger. Jackson Proskow reports. 

TORONTO – Toronto Public Health officials are investigating after 34 people became ill eating at the CNE between August 16th and 20th.

At least 12 of those people reported becoming sick after eating a Cronut burger – one of the highlight food items at the exhibition. Toronto Emergency Medical Services (EMS) said five of those stricken by the stomach illness were transported to hospital for further care.

Kim McKinnon, a spokesperson for EMS, said all 12 patients were experiencing “vomiting, nausea [and] cramping” Monday evening.

Initial investigation determined that all patients had eaten at the CNE. Dr. Lisa Berger, Associate Medical Officer of Health, said the health agency has so far been unable to confirm where the victims bought the food that made them sick.

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However CNE officials have instructed the restaurant Epic Burger in the food building not to re-open until the health inspection is complete.

It is believed that food outlet, which sells the cronut burger, is the source of the illness but Toronto Public Health is also investigating other cases of unsanitary food.

“We also have information relating to other establishments,” Jim Chan, a manager at Toronto Public Health said to reporters at the CNE on Wednesday. “So the investigation has to concentrate in linking to see what is a common element between all the cases reported to Toronto Public Health.”

Marianna, who did not want to give her last name, told Global News in a phone interview Wednesday that she went to the CNE with four of her friends to try all the new foods. They indulged in not just the cronut burger but also the behemoth burger also served by Epic Burger, deep-fried macaroni and cheese and sweet potato fries covered in Nutella.

“Early this morning, I woke up with unbearable stomach pains,” she said in a phone interview. “I didn’t know what it was. I went into the bathroom and immediately started throwing up and the vomiting didn’t end until 4:30 this morning.”

She originally thought that it was the combination of culinary experiments that made her sick but her friend, whom she had split the cronut burger with, also became sick. After seeing reports on the news of other people falling ill from their bout with the cronut, she called Toronto Public Health.

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Several people expressed their discontent with their gastronomic experience on Twitter.

Health officials are expecting the number of reported cases to rise and are asking anyone who felt sick after eating at the CNE, whether or not they live in Toronto, to call 311 or Toronto Public Health to report their symptoms.

A TPH spokesperson said they have already completed inspections at 200 food establishments on opening weekend at the CNE – 17 of those had conditional passes and one received a ticket.

Epic Burger was last checked by health officials on August 16, Chan said.

Toronto Public Health has disposed of all the food at the restaurant to protect from further contamination with the exception of samples taken for further testing.

“All the food in the establishment could be a potential cause of any illnesses,” Chan said. “It’s been put on hold by Toronto Public Health. It has been removed from the site and will not be used.”

TPH officials will conduct further tests on Epic Burger on Wednesday afternoon.

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The city’s health office plans to do follow-ups with all food premises throughout the run of the two week event.

Marianna, who is still recovering at home on the advice of Toronto Public Health, said the experience won’t keep her from returning to the CNE but it might keep her from being as “adventurous” in her culinary experiences.

“I thought it was a pretty good burger,” she said. “No complaints in the taste section there, but I wouldn’t eat it again after going through what I had to last night.”

The CNE is billed by organizers as Canada’s largest annual community event which runs through Labour Day.

Last year, the attraction brought in 1.39 million visitors over 18 days.

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